In Which I Stop Reading And Start Writing

V0040734 A woman is sitting at a desk in a library, writing a letter.

Yesterday I reached that undefinable moment in my current project when it is time to stop reading and start writing.

For smaller projects, the moment when I’m ready to make the leap is obvious. Sometimes I reach the point where I’m not learning anything new about my subject. Other times I reach the less satisfactory* point where I’ve read everything I can find to read and hope I can spackle over the holes in my knowledge as I go. Either way, it’s time to plunge in.

With larger projects, the line between research and writing is fuzzier. I’ve never found a way to measure “enough”. I certainly never reach the point where I’ve read everything there is to read. In fact, I regularly suffer from heart-pounding moments of panic when I realize that my source lists have spiraled out of control–again.**

And yet, that magic moment comes when I know it is time to make the leap. I can see the shape of the book. I’ve identified dramatic scenes or engaging details with which to catch a reader’s imagination. The pile of books as yet unread suddenly feels burdensome rather than exciting. I am restless, fidgety, eager to start. ***

I definitely don’t know enough yet to write the book. I probably don’t know everything I need to write the book proposal. I don’t even know what I don’t know. I will find holes, write past them until there is more hole than narrative, pause to search for answers, and write again.

Today I start.

When do you know it’s time to put down the book and pick up the pen start typing?

*i.e, absolutely terrifying.
**The seductive voice of the research demon can a terrible thing. I once identified 24 academic books as sources for a 250 word article before I caught myself.
***Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m always fidgety.

Image courtesy of The Wellcome Library


  1. Amanda on September 5, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    In recent years I’ve started writing immediately and keep writing as I continue reading. It’s very messy, but very satisfying like digging in the garden dirt in April even when it’s really too early to plant anything.

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